I was privileged to attend the annual Social Worker of the Year Awards in London recently.
It was an opportunity to hear some great stories of amazing social workers and the practice they undertake day in and out, making a difference to the lives and experiences of individuals and families needing help and support.
It was a heart-warming night and a great celebration of our profession. More than that, it was brilliant to see social workers enjoying all too rare acknowledgement of the vital and challenging work we do. The founder of the awards, Beverley Williams, quite rightly highlighted how important it is for us to be proud of who we are and what we do.
Those who were nominated and won awards could be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed when greeted with so much cheering and applauding.
If anything, it highlighted for me that social workers spend so much of their time focused on helping people lead the best lives they can they don’t even think about being recognised for this complex and challenging work. When it does happen however, it is humbling and always emotional.
It was a privilege to present the award for Adult Social Worker of the Year to Harprit Rai from Birmingham City Council. Harprit demonstrated impressive practice, determination and skills in working with people with mental capacity issues. She ensures decisions are made in their best interests resulting in great positive life outcomes.
I was also very pleased to see Rob Mitchell – a recent guest blogger on my site - win the Principal Social Worker of the year award. Rob works tirelessly to promote excellent social work with adults in Calderdale and has made a big impact on the quality and effectiveness of social work in his locality. Rob’s relentless focus on human rights and strengths based approaches to social work is making a real difference and we are very fortunate to have a Principal Social Worker of his calibre in adult social work.
I was also delighted to see the Community Offer Team from Barnet won Adult Team of the Year. Their focus on community alternatives promoting social inclusion and a sense of citizenship proved their dedication to serving the best interests of the people they are tasked to help. This shift towards social workers playing a key role in helping people access assets and possibilities in their communities has not only improved their outcomes but also delivered essential savings for the council.
And on the subject of delivery, the goal of seven day NHS services has been hitting the headlines recently. Social care will have its part to play in making sure this works on a whole system basis. So it was great to see the Hospital Extended Services schemes in Birmingham, which deliver seven day social work provision, win the Creative and Innovative Social Work Practice Award. They have demonstrated the value of excellent health related social work and the important contribution social work plays in improving health and social care outcomes for people.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that we must provide social work students with good quality placements if we are to produce the next generation of excellent social workers. and Derby City have an amazing duo in the form of practice educators Rob Hawley and Lisa Beris, who work together to make sure students and qualified social workers have great input in developing reflective practice and deepening social work knowledge and skills.
I visited Northumberland earlier this year and was impressed by the embedded arrangements between the NHS and the council to deliver integrated responses for local people, so I wasn’t surprised when the Adult Team leader of the Year, David Minto was recognised with an award.
David has remained in touch with frontline social work practice and so it is no surprise that NHS colleagues respect and value the contribution social workers make. He has also shown great practice leadership in developing a specialist palliative care social work service.
The lifetime Achievement award went to Anju Bhatti from Optalis, the local authority trading company owned by Wokingham Borough Council. Anju came to England as a refugee from Uganda in 1972.
I have worked with a number of social workers who originally came here as refugees and it underlines the significant contribution they make to public service and to the wellbeing and richness of our society.
The other winner I want to mention is the overall Social Worker of the Year and Mental Health Social Worker of the Year, Helen Pye. Helen works in South Yorkshire and her efforts to improve the experiences of young people accessing forensic mental health services has rightly won her plaudits. Her practice leadership, as the only social worker in a team of health professionals, resulted in her winning over health colleagues to help deliver more meaningful interventions for young people.
Practice leadership which balances personalised psychosocial and medical approaches is a vital strategy if we are to improve people’s experience of health and social care. Helen demonstrates the contribution excellent social work can make to making a difference for the people we serve.
Indeed, Helen, the other winners and all social workers working hard to make life easier and better for our citizens deserve our thanks and respect – seven days a week, 365 days a year.